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HISD Board declines to hire Lathan permanently

A national search will be conducted, with still-interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan encouraged to apply.

Houston ISD trustees voted Thursday against committing to Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan as the district’s long-term leader, opting instead to launch a national search before filling the position.

In a 6-3 vote, trustees generally complimented Lathan’s lengthy tenure as interim, but ultimately concluded the district needs a deeper search for a permanent chief. Some trustees encouraged Lathan to apply for the job during the search, though it is not immediately clear whether she will.

“As the largest school district in Texas and the seventh-largest in the United States, it is of the utmost importance that we think about candidates for the permanent superintendent position by going through a transparent and thorough search process,” HISD Trustee Holly Maria Flynn Vilaseca said.

“We owe it to our students, our community, our constituents and the taxpayers to do our due diligence.”

HISD trustees Judith Cruz, Sue Deigaard, Dani Hernandez, Elizabeth Santos and Anne Sung joined Flynn Vilaseca in voting to start the search. Lathan did not address the outcome during Thursday’s meeting or immediately respond to a request for comment through the district.

[…]

Lathan enjoyed strong backing from many other HISD administrators, with about 45 of them lauding her leadership amid district instability and the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“This period now has been, by far, one of the most difficult I have seen during my tenure,” said Moreno Elementary School Principal Adriana Abarca-Castro, who has led the campus for 31 years. “I have witnessed how our superintendent, Dr. Lathan, has led us courageously, positively and (been) supportive in every way.”

Many of the city’s Black civic leaders also rallied to support Lathan, with U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee and state Reps. Alma Allen and Senfronia Thompson endorsing her Thursday. Lathan would have become the district’s first Black woman to lead the district if chosen.

However, Lathan’s tenure coincided with scathing state reports documenting extensive operational and special education issues in the district. One of HISD’s longest-struggling campuses, Wheatley High School, also received its seventh straight failing grade in 2019, triggering a state law that resulted in Education Commissioner Mike Morath moving to replace the district’s elected school board.

Some trustees argued HISD should not lock in a superintendent while they continue to fight in court to stop their ouster. The board’s lawsuit against the state is pending before the Texas Supreme Court.

“The TEA lawsuit has huge implications for our choice,” HISD Trustee Elizabeth Santos said.

HISD trustees did not outline a plan Thursday for conducting their search, though questions remain about whether they can legally engage in the process.

See here for the background. This whole thing is a mess. The best argument for doing the national search is that this is the way we have always searched for Superintendents. Under normal circumstances, the HISD Super job is a plum – we’re a big district, we’re in good fiscal shape, we’ve got a lot of good schools, and yet there are some real challenges on which someone with vision can make a difference. We get good applicants, and just the process of reviewing and interviewing them can provide some new perspective on HISD and its mission.

Of course, these are not normal circumstances. Putting aside the current disfunction with the Board, the looming state takeover would be a pretty serious drawback for any potential applicant, and that’s before you take into account the fact that the eventual appointed board of managers might move to vacate your contract. Plus, the fact that you’d be competing against a now-multi-year interim Super for the job might be an impediment. I don’t even know how to factor in the whole Abe Saavedra fiasco, other than as another example of what a circus it has been around here. The clear downside risk of not making Grenita Lathan permanent, even on a shorter-than-usual contract, is that she might just decide that she’s had it with this bullshit and leave, and now we don’t have any Superintendent at a time when that would be really bad. I don’t feel strongly one way or the other about Lathan, but it is fair to say she has not been treated well by the Board, even with two of the instigators of the Saavedra mess being defeated in the 2019 election. I don’t know where we go from here.

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7 Comments

  1. Manny says:

    Wondering if Kuffner is pandering to the blacks? “We won’t have a superintendent”, really? We don’t have one now as Lathan is not the superintendent. Lathan was appointed as interim after the superintendent left for New York because of hiscontinuous harrassment by the Black trustees.

    Never ceases to amaze me how white liberals seem to pander to the black community. Don’t think that the pandering is not noticed by many in the other very large community.

    It was the blacks that pointed fingers at the Latinos on the board in regards to corruption when it was one of their own that may have been shafting the tax payers.

  2. David Fagan says:

    Well, liberal racism is the same as conservative racism, just plain ol racism.

    Racism looks like it encompasses all races, but human decency also encompasses all races.

  3. Manny says:

    Of course it does Fagan, there is also bigotry, one of the things that I have noticed is that gay people tend to hire almost all gay people as staff. Also true of the Jewish people.

  4. mollusk says:

    Sheez.

    Racism, bigotry, ignorance… no matter what it’s called, “all (insert external attribute) people (or most, or just **** people) are / tend to / can / can’t ” (something that doesn’t really have anything to do with that attribute) pretty much fits that bill.

  5. BP says:

    The Hispanic seats don’t want anyone Black in the lead seat, and if Manny is correct, the Blacks don’t want a Hispanic in the lead chair. Forget about this black and brown racism nonsense because guess what, the REALLY BAD RACIST WHITE PEOPLE hate us all equally. So might as well put Lathan in the lead seat because she has been the “temporary” longer than the last “permanent” guy.

  6. Manny says:

    Not sure if that is correct BP – Just saying that the Black trustees were constantly harrassing Carranza, they probably wanted Lathan, speculation. Lathan also failed to protect some of the Trustees and according to some may have been involved in provoking them, i.e.

    “In March, Richard Carranza resigned as HISD Superintendent, and in April, the board promoted then Chief Academic Officer, Dr. Grenita Lathan, to interim superintendent while they planned for their second superintendent search in the same number of years.

    But for the past five months, there has been a behind the scenes struggle by a faction of board members to make Interim Superintendent Dr. Grenita Lathan the permanent superintendent. The board is split, and currently, Dr. Lathan does not have the five votes necessary to be selected despite strong lobbying by some board members, powerful elected officials and influential business people.

    As part of her bid to secure the top job, Dr. Lathan has welcomed a longtime activist and critic of the district’s administration, Gerry Monroe, into her circle.

    She regularly appears in pictures with him on social media, and his numerous Facebook videos often provide information that could only come from Dr. Lathan’s office—leading followers to believe they are in constant contact. Mr. Monroe is a longtime outspoken critic of the board, and at times, I’ve even stood on the same side of important issues—as we did this past spring when Dr. Lathan and the board wanted to charter ten historic HISD schools.

    But while Mr. Monroe is a regular fixture at board meetings demanding changes in our schools, he has also made arguments expressing homophobic, transphobic and misogynistic sentiments. For instance, he made a video during the debate on the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) where he mocked people who are transgender by entering a woman’s restroom. On another occasion, he made demeaning comments about one of his former partners during his public comments at a school board meeting. More recently, Mr. Monroe has chastised women for speaking poorly of R. Kelly, a sexual abuser, and blamed the sexual assault of females on the way they dress. …

    Dr. Lathan’s supportive faction of trustees have been waging a significant campaign to convince the rest of the board to act without a full superintendent search. Principals from these trustees’ districts have been using public comment space and time at board meetings to urge the board to hire her. Publicized events in schools and churches with supporters like Mr. Monroe have become frequent. Mr. Monroe was even permitted to film a music video at Yates High School, his alma mater, celebrating the rebuilt school’s new address.

    But during the past few weeks however, as a majority of the board has been moving closer to kicking off a new national superintendent search, Mr. Monroe’s rhetoric and coordination with some trustees has escalated.

    He began to make social media posts where he discussed trustees’ personal lives, encouraged people to show up at trustees’ homes, and critiqued Trustee Anne Sung and Trustee Holly Vilaseca’s bodies.

    Flintstone sisters is a name used regularly by Mr. Monroe in videos and posts to refer to Trustee Holly Vilaseca and Trustee Anne Sung.

    Things on his Facebook page seemed to reach a fever pitch this past week, when he made a video insinuating that Trustee Sung’s sexual partner needed to be drunk in order to have sex with her—a video now removed by Facebook for objectionable content and a video which caused one of Mr. Monroe’s Facebook accounts to be banned for 30 days.

    Source; http://www.hisdparents.org/blog/2018/9/8/why-every-woman-in-houston-should-be-alarmed-by-what-happened-this-week-with-houston-isds-school-board

    Grenita Lathan – BLACK
    Interim Superintendent
    March 2018 – Present

    Richard Carranza – HISPANIC
    Aug. 18, 2016 – March 4, 2018

    Terry Grier – WHITE
    Aug. 2009 – March 1, 2016

    Abelardo Saavedra – HISPANIC
    Aug. 27, 2004 – Aug. 2009

    Kathryn “Kaye” Stripling – WHITE
    Feb. 9, 2001 – Aug. 26, 2004

    Roderick “Rod” Paige – BLACK
    Feb. 7, 1994 – Feb. 2001